Major, Positive Change to Mission Call Options

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Curt Sunshine
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Major, Positive Change to Mission Call Options

Post by Curt Sunshine » 16 Nov 2018, 11:32

Almost everyone here (if not everyone) has been asking for an official, expanded chance for people to be called on service missions. That day is here.

The new policy is that everyone who wants to serve a mission will be considered for a traditional mission, but any individual with an issue that would make a traditional mission impossible or overly risky can be called on a service mission instead. Also, significantly, anyone who returns home early from a traditional mission can be shifted into a service mission as soon as they are able to do so - if they are able to do so.

Finally, anyone who is not able to serve either a traditional or service mission can be exempted officially from such service, and that will be recorded as an honorable option.

Here is the Newsroom announcement:

https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/ ... wk9fVKQ6C4
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

nibbler
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Re: Major, Positive Change to Mission Call Options

Post by nibbler » 16 Nov 2018, 11:53

Curt Sunshine wrote:
16 Nov 2018, 11:32
Almost everyone here (if not everyone) has been asking for an official, expanded chance for people to be called on service missions. That day is here.
Not to be that guy, but not quite. I think we're one day closer, but I don't think today is the day, at least not the one I'm waiting for.

I'd like a program where the missionary has the option to decide which type of mission they want to serve.
During the recommendation process, all candidates will be considered first for full-time proselyting missions. Those unable to be called as proselyting missionaries for physical, mental or emotional reasons may be called as service missionaries. In some cases, candidates will be honorably excused from any formal missionary service.
I'm worried this will create the mindset of, "Oh, they got called on a service mission. I wonder what's wrong with them?" because it sounds like the service mission is set up to only be available to the people that didn't make the proselyting mission cut. Maybe that's not the intent, if not they should seriously consider rewording how one gets called to a service mission.

Why can't the application have a simple checkbox?

Desired Mission Type:
[ ] Proselyting
[ ] Service

And I'll add another, Desired Mission Length: [ ] 24 months [ ] 18 months [ ] 12 months [ ] 6 months

I'm iffy on the whole honorably excused from missionary service concept. Someone will have to explain that one to me. It makes applying for a mission sound mandatory. Maybe it's their polite way of saying some people won't qualify for a proselyting or service mission.

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Re: Major, Positive Change to Mission Call Options

Post by Curt Sunshine » 16 Nov 2018, 11:59

I understand those concerns, but I honestly think it is a wonderful compromise between two competing ideals right now.

I cannot fault the Church for still wanting everyone to be considered for a traditional mission, but I also am convinced a lot more people who want to serve in some way will try to do so if they know the service option is available - and if every local leader knows that is a legitimate option. I love the ability to move seamlessly and without any guilt into a service mission, if a traditional mission doesn't work. I also LOVE the explicit movement away from the "every young man must serve a mission" mentality.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: Major, Positive Change to Mission Call Options

Post by mom3 » 16 Nov 2018, 12:18

My nephew had the luxury of being called to Kazakhstan for his full time mission. Under Russian rules, the missionaries could only do service and cultural meetings. He was the second nephew to serve a mission. His older brother was in Brazil. The differences were night and day. As a bystander, the kid who enjoyed his mission the most was Kazakhstan.

I will take every step closer to the service model.

Maybe there will be a watershed of requests which help the tide move towards Nibbler's plan. Fingers crossed.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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Re: Major, Positive Change to Mission Call Options

Post by dande48 » 16 Nov 2018, 12:34

Once again, I'm having a hard time seeing what the "change" actually is. Service missions have been an alternative for those unable to serve traditional missions (such as those with Downs, etc) for quite a long time now. A good friend of the family told a few months back his daughter had signed up for one. I also had a few friends growing up who were on the same boat.

The main difference is, now missionaries who return home early will feel even more of an obligation to "finish their service". The Church will have their pound of flesh. Also... being "honorably excused" also seems fishy, as if the Church needs to give you their stamp of approval if for whatever reason you choose not to serve.

I want to break away from the Mandatory mission service mandate. I want a youngin' to be able to say, "I will not be serving as a missionary", and still retain full societal fellowship in the Church.
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On Own Now
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Re: Major, Positive Change to Mission Call Options

Post by On Own Now » 16 Nov 2018, 13:11

Thanks for the info Curt. I have to admit, I have mixed feelings about it.

I understand the desire to get more service oriented in our missions, and I do believe that this helps legitimize serving in other ways. I think this is mostly positive and I guess I look on it favorably.

But at the same time, I think if I had a family member considering serving an LDS Service Mission, I might encourage them to do two years in the Peace Corps, where they will do direct good and will also get some financial benefit out of it.

I've known lots of cases where LDS missionaries are called upon to help people move, to mow lawns, to paint, to repair stuff... all things that people would normally just pay for or do themselves, but missionaries, who have given up 18-24 months to live away from family are called upon to provide free labor. That kind of stuff just always feels like indentured servitude to me.

I've known missionaries who have been called to pure service missions, and it feels the same way... this is a job that someone else gets paid for, but the Church "called" them to work for free and for a determined trimeframe with the expectation of complete obedience to what they are told to do.

A specific example from my own past: When I was 18, there was going to be a huge regional one-of-a-kind boyscout/aaronic-priesthood camp in my state. Big fanfare. The Church opened it up to 17 and 18 year old eagle scouts to participate in a special capacity. It was pitched as an opportunity for these elite senior scouts to have an extra wonderful experience. They would go two days ahead to help prepare, and then get to participate in the whole thing. I signed up. It was going to be my last hoorah, so to speak, since I was on my way out of YM, and was graduating high school. We all paid the full fee, plus an extra $50 to cover additional expenses because of our early arrival. We got there and were put to work immediately, and it was pretty hard work. On the day the main groups arrived, I worked the massive parking area. It was exhausting, unshaded, dirty. I blew mud out of my nose for the next day or so. That evening, there were shower trucks that had been set up. Keep in mind, we had already been there working, and we were filthy from the parking job, but when our group headed to the showers, we were told to come back later so that the young scouts could go first... even though they just got there that morning. I was pretty annoyed. During the camp, we had extra duties, delivering food, moving stuff around, etc. All in all, I have to say that even as an all-in fully-committed soon-to-be-missionary, it felt like the Church had taken advantage of our willingness by having us pay, and even pay extra, and then to work for free.

I once knew a guy who was serving in a mission office as a senior missionary. I could tell that managing mission operations like shipments, car and bicycle maintenance was not what he really envisioned doing for free as a "missionary".
"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." --Romans 14:13

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Re: Major, Positive Change to Mission Call Options

Post by Curt Sunshine » 16 Nov 2018, 14:39

Fwiw, perfect too often is the enemy of good - or even great.

I think the central issue for many is the belief that "preaching the Gospel" is a divine mandate. I don't agree with how that has been interpetaped in some ways, but, scripturally, it is hard to argue against that belief, generally. There are reasonable arguments about WHO is responsible for fulfilling that mandate - a specific, relatively small subset of believers or all believers, for example. However, it is a clear scriptural mandate, given without explicit qualification. This is important to acknowledge, because . . .

Personally, I see no chance that the Church will say:
"It is no big deal if traditional missions dwindle dramatically or disappear (which is a result that needs to be considered). Whatever is cool."


I also don't think that result is desirable, from a simple Church growth perspective. Traditional missions are far too good for far too many people (and the organization) for the Church to be okay watching them slide into irrelevancy or even decrease the importance it attaches to them. Seriously, I just can't see that happening, and I understand completely and respect why.

However, missions often hurt specific missionaries, in widely varying ways. Service is important, and many members would do better on service missions than traditional missions - and many who would be fine in different missions would do better on service missions than with specific Mission Presidents. Also, many members want to serve traditional missions, show no indications of not being able to so productively, and then discover they are being hurt by those traditional missions.

Thus, I understand the need to maintain an emphasis on traditional missions while opening the door for FAR more people to do service missions or not serve missions at all but still feel accepted officially in that action. I understand why the Church can't say officially to individual members, "Do whatever you want. You tell us what you want to do; we will make that happen." I understand the appeal of that approach, and it absolutely is the ultimate example of complete and total freedom/agency, but it is nowhere close to the ideal when it comes to fulfilling what is seen as one of the most explicit Christian mandates: "Go ye, therefore, into all the world..." Thus, it becomes a balancing act.

I see this announcement as a great attempt to provide a difficult balance. Initially, when the individual meets with the local leader, the question is if the member can serve a traditional mission, with a clear, official, stated recognition that all members will not be able to do so. If everyone agrees a traditional mission should be doable, the person will be called on a traditional mission - with the explicit understanding that if it doesn't work for any reason, it can end and the person can switch to a service mission without any official stigma associated with failure (or be released completely and be done). If the decision is that a traditional mission is not appropriate, service missions are available as another official, acceptable, non-inferior option. If no mission is deemed appropriate, none is assigned - without any official censure or judgment.

Finally, I see this as a way for individual members to say to their local leaders, "I can't serve a traditional mission, but I can do a service mission." That leaves the responsibility on the local leader to process the request for a service mission, just as they can do now but with an official statement saying it is fine in far more cases than it was previously. It isn't like SLC is the one making the determination in all cases of which type of calling will be issued. Local leaders now will have a lot more authority in that area, as I understand the announcement itself.

Of course, there will be cultural crap in too many cases still. That is completely up to local culture and leadership roulette, which sucks sometimes. However, it is important that the message from the top no longer is that being "worthy" is connected directly to serving a traditional mission - or that leaving a traditional mission early is a sign of sin or weakness or faithlessness - or that leaving a traditional mission early ends one's mission entirely. This change makes the "Called to Serve, Not to Suffer" article official policy. That is important, and I love that aspect.

It is a major change, conceptually, and I understand why it can't go further right now. The Church simply can't risk undermining traditional proselyting by not prioritizing it for those whom it likely won't hurt but will be beneficial.

At least, that is my take on it. :D
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: Major, Positive Change to Mission Call Options

Post by nibbler » 16 Nov 2018, 15:26

That's an interesting take. I do find it ...idealistic... I think.

Human nature has to factor into all this. The way the policy reads, the only way to qualify for a service mission is to be disqualified from a proselyting mission. Human nature is such that people are going to view the service missions as lesser (terrestrial kingdom missions), specifically because the language of the policy. "Mental [and] emotional reasons" still have a (unfair) stigma attached to them in society.

I guess if you really wanted to do a service mission over a proselyting mission you could pre-disquailfy yourself.
Curt Sunshine wrote:
16 Nov 2018, 14:39
I understand why the Church can't say officially to individual members, "Do whatever you want. You tell us what you want to do; we will make that happen." I understand the appeal of that approach, and it absolutely is the ultimate example of complete and total freedom/agency, but it is nowhere close to the ideal when it comes to fulfilling what is seen as one of the most explicit Christian mandates: "Go ye, therefore, into all the world..." Thus, it becomes a balancing act.
A few points.

1) It doesn't have to be accommodating everyone's specific desires. It can be as simple as choosing between two options. Rising generations may be more inclined to serve if they get more say in how they serve.
2) Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words. Who knows, service missions could do far more to preach the gospel than our traditional proselyting efforts. Provided the service is more outward facing, something other than cleaning chapels and running church owned farms.
Curt Sunshine wrote:
16 Nov 2018, 14:39
The Church simply can't risk undermining traditional proselyting by not prioritizing it for those whom it likely won't hurt but will be beneficial.
There's risk associated with not changing too. There's probably greater risk in sticking with the model of missions having unnecessary rules that add nothing but burdens. I appreciate that there's a fine line to walk. I guess in conservative churches the fear of not changing has to outstrip the fear of changing.
dande48 wrote:
16 Nov 2018, 12:34
Once again, I'm having a hard time seeing what the "change" actually is. Service missions have been an alternative for those unable to serve traditional missions (such as those with Downs, etc) for quite a long time now.
I've seen this a few times in recent years too. What I saw wasn't a service mission though, people were called to be full time missionaries in the stake in which they resided. Normal mission, just local.

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Re: Major, Positive Change to Mission Call Options

Post by Curt Sunshine » 16 Nov 2018, 18:54

Another change is that service missionaries apparently can be assigned to serve in community non-profit, charitable organizations - like the Catholic Charities mentioned in the article. That is an excellent change.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: Major, Positive Change to Mission Call Options

Post by hawkgrrrl » 16 Nov 2018, 20:48

I'm a little confused by this announcement. This is exactly what already happened to my nephew a year ago. He applied for a mission, he was declined for that and instead offered a service mission, but he had to find his own housing, preferably with family, to do the service mission, and since he didn't have a housing option near where the service mission was, he couldn't serve the service mission. Plus, rather than do that at his own expense, why not just keep doing his job (which is what he did)? He wouldn't be trained or have a companion like other missionaries. It was basically a job without pay. IMO, he could have served a regular mission, but some things his mother had said to her local leaders may have poisoned the well unnecessarily.

So, I'm with nibbler, that all this does is continue to keep control and choice out of the hands of members and reduces the service option to a fallback plan for those deemed unfit.

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